Most older people in deprived areas are at risk of social exclusion

July 16, 2003

Seven out of 10 older people in deprived areas are vulnerable to or experience at least some form of social exclusion, according to new research sponsored by the Economic & Social Research Council as part of its Growing Older Programme.

A study led by Dr. Thomas Scharf, of the Centre for Social Gerontology, Keele University, found that there are broadly three groups of older people in deprived areas. Some 30 per cent do not suffer any form of exclusion from material needs, social relations, civic activities, basic services or the neighbourhood. A further 30 per cent are 'vulnerable' and experience at least some form of 'exclusion'. And the remaining 40 per cent report 'multiple exclusions'.

For people in the latter category, this might mean going without basic necessities of life such as heating, new clothing, food and holidays, and being less involved in community life.

People are vulnerable to exclusion regardless of age or sex, but it is more of a problem for some ethnic minority groups - particularly Somali and Pakistani older people, says the report. Research carried out in the most deprived areas of Liverpool, Manchester, and Newham, East London, reveals that 60 per cent of older people in these areas have to cope with medium or high levels of deprivation.

The study drew on the results of a national survey which highlighted a range of items and activities regarded by 50 per cent or more of people as necessities of daily living. People lacking two or more items because they could not afford them were judged to be in poverty. On that basis, 45 per cent of those surveyed for this study were in that category.

Some older people lacked and could not afford a substantial number of necessities. Around three-quarters of older Somali people and two-thirds of older Pakistani people were in poverty.

Dr. Scharf said: "Comparison of these findings with national data suggests that older people in deprived areas are at least twice as likely to experience poverty as people in Britain as a whole."

Only seven per cent of those surveyed suggested that they would feel 'very safe' when leaving their home after dark, while 44 per cent reported that they would feel very unsafe. The report suggests that those who regard their neighbourhood as unsafe or a place where they might be vulnerable to crime may feel restricted in their ability to mix socially.

Asked whether they had undertaken any of 11 different types of civic activities in the previous three years, about three-quarters said they had been involved in at least one. On the other hand, 24 per cent said they had participated in none.

The overwhelming majority of older people had access to basic amenities, though a significant minority cut back on using services to make ends meet. Fourteen percent had used less of three basic services in the preceding five years.

Overall, 72 per cent had used a post office, a chemist and a bus service at least once in the previous year, and 18 per cent had used two of these. The remaining 10 per cent had failed to use at least two.
For further information, contact: Dr. Thomas Scharf on 0-17-8258-4066 (work) or 0-12-7025-3191 (home), e-mail: or Lesley Lilley or Anna Hinds at ESRC, on 0-17-9341-3032/41-3119.


1. The research report 'Older People in Deprived Neighbourhoods: Social Exclusion and Quality of Life in Old Age' was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Dr Scharf is at the Centre for Social Gerontology, Keele University, Staffordshire ST5 5BG. The project is part of the ESRC's Growing Older Programme (website:

2. The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It has a track record of providing high-quality, relevant research to business, the public sector and Government. The ESRC invests more than £53 million every year in social science research. At any time, its range of funding schemes may be supporting 2,000 researchers within academic institutions and research policy institutes. It also funds postgraduate training within the social sciences thereby nurturing the researchers of tomorrow. The ESRC website address is

3. REGARD is the ESRC's database of research. It provides a key source of information on ESRC social science research awards and all associated publications and products. The website can be found at

Economic & Social Research Council

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